Aqueduct Race Report: Get in Line

Published in the Nov. 17 issue of The Blood-Horse
The Big Top has been taken down and racing's "Greatest Show on Earth" has moved on. But that doesn't mean there aren't any talented entertainers left in New York to provide thrills and chills for fans of all ages.

Life after the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships puts a different twist to the sport and creates new and unusual confrontations not likely to be seen earlier in the year. Where else can you find trainers Bill Mott, Shug McGaughey, and Christophe Clement doing battle with Bowie-based Robert Bailes, Suffolk Downs-based Patricia Meadow, and Michael Matz, who has trained at the Fair Hill Training Center? Well, that's what you had in the Nov. 10 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT). Also in that potpourri of trainers was Vinnie Blengs, a 72-year-old veteran of the Massachussetts circuit, who has been operating out of Laurel in recent years.

Blengs, over the years, has instrumented several successful raids into New York, which include victories in the 1991 Sword Dancer Handicap (gr. IT) with Dr. Root, the 1984 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. I) with Back Bay Barrister, and the 1999 Cicada Stakes (gr. III) with Potomac Bend. But they have been few and far between. His only foray into the world of the Breeders' Cup came in 1992 when he saddled Selima Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Booly to a ninth-place finish in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

Now, with the clean-up of the 2001 World Thoroughbred Championships all but completed, Blengs came to New York with his hard-knocking 4-year-old filly Queue in an attempt to pick up some of the black-type leftovers.

With the Long Island being the last major New York stakes for fillies and mares on the turf, it was not surprising a field of 13 went to the post. It also wasn't surprising that the field included two European invaders, considering Europe's success in the World Thoroughbred Championships and the fact that four of the previous 10 runnings of the Long Island were won by European- based fillies. This year, their hopes rested on the 9-5 favorite Moon Queen, coming off a group II victory at Longchamp, and Affianced, who had placed in five consecutive black-type races against colts in Ireland.

Of the Americans, Queue and Summer Solstice were the most highly regarded at 5-1. Queue, owned by Gerald Robins and Jay Weiss who also bred her with Waldemar Farms, was coming off four big efforts, including a victory in the New Castle Handicap at Delaware Park. The daughter of French Deputy was a stone closer who had found a late-season spark after being reunited with jockey Jose Espinoza. However, she had never been the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Long Island, and had finished sixth in her only start in grade II company, and that was 15 months earlier.

Moon Queen, as expected, went to the front, but was pressed all the way by 43-1 Bail Bond, as the pair were able to get away with fractions of :49.40 and 1:13.97. Queue had one horse beat down the backstretch, but when Espinoza nudged on a bit, she began picking off horses on the outside. As the field bunched on the far turn, Queue had a full head of steam and pounced on the leaders after turning for home. With Espinoza just waving his whip at her a couple of times, she bounded away from the others with a tremendous turn of foot, drawing off to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 2:29.36 for the 12 furlongs. Canadian invader Sweetest Thing outlasted 26-1 shot Lady Dora for the place. Moon Queen continued on gamely after her early battle, but could only manage a fifth-place finish. She'll now be turned over to Clement.

Queue's assistant trainer, Mike Lerman, subbing for Blengs, said the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder (on Dec. 29) likely will be her next start.

Nov. 11 featured the New York Stallion Stakes series, and it was a big day for the favorites as Quarter Keg Stable's 3-10 White Ibis scored a hard-earned victory in the six-furlong Great White Way Stakes for 2-year-old colts; James F. Edwards' 6-5 Princess Dixie won the Fifth Avenue Stakes for 2-year-old fillies; and Edward T. McGettigan Sr.'s 3-5 Union One captured the Cormorant Stakes at a mile on the turf. The only non-favorite to win was William Clifton and Rudlein Stable's Wake Up Kiss, who won the Perfect Arc Stakes at a mile on the turf for fillies and mares.  

(Chart, Equibase)